Stoffel Vandoorne did it. Gasly is doing it right now with a legitimate chance to be the Champion this year. Super Formula is increasingly becoming a viable alternative for teams to send their young drivers to for a year until a racing seat becomes available.
Instead of sitting the 2018 season on the sidelines, Mercedes can send Pascal to race in Super Formula for a year to keep him busy while work in the background to help his return in 2019. The driver market will explode in 2018 and therefore an opportunity can open up in 2019. The obvious danger is that he could disappear from other team’s radar altogether.